The statement is obviously meant to exacerbate the situation in the war-torn country
If the new Iraqi government has something in common with Saddam Hussein's regime, it is their hatred towards the eastern neighbor – Iran. The war between Iran and Iraq ended 15 years ago, but it still influences the relations between the two countries.
Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem al-Shaalan said in an interview to Al-Arabiya television channel yesterday Iran was the “first enemy” of the Iraqi nation. “There is Iranian support to al-Sadr's group and this is no secret. There are Iranian-made weapons that have been found in the hands of criminals in Najaf who received these weapons from across the Iranian border," Shaalan said. "From far and near, the facts that we have say that what has happened to the Iraqi people is done by the one who is considered as the first enemy," the Iraqi defense minister was quoted as saying.
The Iraqi official released such a harsh statement against the background of continuing battles in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. Armed clashes between Muqtada al-Sadr's followers and American troops have already been raging for a week there. US military officials say hundreds of militants have been killed in fierce battles. Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurufi stated last week about 80 Iranian citizens were found among the terrorists killed in the city.
It became known on August 4th the Iranian Consul Faridoon Jahani was kidnapped in the Iraqi city of Karbala. The consul was kidnapped by the Islamic Army in Iraq group. Kidnapping has already become a usual thing to happen in the country, although they previously took hostages of the people from US-supporting countries. Iran can hardly be categorized as such. Jahani was kidnapped for a different reason – for “stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties.” The diplomat would simply be expelled in any other country, but there is a different solution to such problems in up-to-date Iraq. Faridoon Jahani is reportedly “alive and well”, according to Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi.
The reasons of the current conflict between Iran and Iraq are different as opposed to Saddam Hussein's era. The war broke out in the 1980s because of the oil-rich border territories. Now the conflict has been incited from the outside. US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has expressed an opinion about Iran almost at the same time with harsh statements from Baghdad. Rice's speech, however, was devoted to the Iranian nuclear program. According to Rice, the US is ready to conduct secret operations to cease nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. It is possible to assume the current conflict between Iran and Iraq is a start of such operations.
Iran has not concealed its intention to involve Iraq in the sphere of its influence. This plan is likely to come true, taking into consideration the fact the Shiites make up the majority of the Iraqi population. Iran used to support Shiite leaders during Saddam's stay at power, giving them shelter and financial help.
After the collapse of the previous regime the US administration decided to win Iraqi Shiites over to their side. Sunnites were considered unreliable, because Saddam was a Sunnite himself. Kurds were not numerous to back up the USA all over Iraq, not only in the north. For the sake of this goal American officials put up with criticism from Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric. The US administration even allowed a younger and more radical cleric Moqtada Sadr to print newspapers, publishing appeals to “fight occupants” in every edition. One of those newspapers was closed, which immediately led to a mutiny. Neither the American administration, nor the Iraqi government can subdue the insurgents.
The statement about Iran being Iraq's first enemy is obviously meant to exacerbate the situation in the war-torn country.